I recently had the opportunity to pick-up the new Martin Independence Recurve. Speaking with the Martin representative over the phone, he told me that the Independence Recurve’s light weight, small size, and stabilizer bushing made it perfect for bowfishing. I was intrigued, and being that bowfishing season will quickly be upon us, I decided to open one up and share my findings. That being said, this is very much an opinion piece and is far from comprehensive. If you have something you’d like to add, or if you feel I missed something please leave a comment and let me know.
My first thought when pulling the Martin Independence Recurve out of its box was, “Wow, this thing really is small.” However, that’s to be expected from a bow with a 52” AMO. I was happy to see the stabilizer bushing looked clean – like it was born there. I did notice that there are no sight bushings, I expected this, but it does mean that if you want to use side mounted reels, such as the extreamly popular AMS Retriever® Pro Bowfishing Reel or the AMS Retriever® TNT reel, you’d either have to install sight bushings or buy the AMS Bowfishing Traditional Mount Adapter. If I were going to use it strictly as a bowfishing rig I’d likely install sight bushings, but the AMS adapter works great if you want to just try out a side mounted bowfishing reel without having to drill holes in your bow.
Before going any further, I’m going to tell you a little about me (so you have a baseline of where I’m coming from). I’m a bigger guy, 6’ 2” and 225 pounds. I shoot with either an X-large Big-Shot Elk Archery Shooting Glove or a large Safari Tuff 3-Under Finger Tab. Don’t ask me when I shoot with which one, because I really do enjoy shooting with both – just depends on how I feel that day if I’m going to shoot with a tab or glove. Also, because I’m a bigger guy, I have a long 31” draw, which means I have long forearms, so I use the 8 ½” Vintage Leather Stiff Back Armguard. I’m right eye dominant and a right handed shooter. I shoot 3-under, string walk when I’m shooting with a tab, and shoot purely instinctive with a glove.
Moving on, the handle on this bow is tiny. I mean it’s very small; smaller than some longbow handles. That said, my hand does fit comfortably, but I could see my pinky either getting squeezed after a while of shooting or opting to shoot using an open grip. Someone with smaller hands would probably not have this problem. However, most bowfishing is done very quickly – there’s a lot going on and a lot of moving parts, which means the smaller handle probably won’t bother you even if you do have big hands.
Holding this bow it occurs to me that it is light as a feather. I weighed it and it comes in at a little more than a pound and a half. I could hold this thing for a while without worrying about fatigue, which means I could likely be out on the water with this bow all day.
While inspecting the limbs I noticed that the bow is not “stamped” with the standard Damon Howatt logo, instead it looks like it was drawn on by hand. This kind of gives it a nice custom vibe – they might not all come this way, but the one I’m playing with did and I like it.
I really like the cornucopia of colors featured in the riser of this bow, they make it stand out and it makes the bow feel more like a custom bow than a mass produced bow. That said, colors are really a taste thing, and the laminated look might not be for you.
Included in the box are instructions, a bow string, an arrow rest, a strike plate, and a bow stringer. There’s nothing wrong with the included strike plate and arrow rest, but I’d certainly put something on it that is more my taste – something a bit less generic.
The string could benefit from an upgrade. I don’t care for the included 14 strand Dacron bowstring and would probably upgrade to a Fast Flight Plus™ Flemish Twist Bow String if I were going to use it as my personal bow. I don’t care for the Dacron because it seems to give the bow a very low brace height and is a bit more “twangy” when shot.
The included bow stringer is adequate, but there are better ones out there (I use the Limbsaver). It’s pretty much what I’d expect from a free stringer. It was, however, a little bit snug to fit the bottom tip into, but I’m sure that would change with use.
Upon stringing the bow I wasn’t surprised to find that the brace height immediately feels very low (like I said, that can happen with a Dacron string right out of the box), so the string will need to be twisted quite a bit. Out of the box the brace height is 5-1/2” and the manufacturer recommended brace height is between 6-3/4” and 7-3/4”. This just reaffirms that if I were to get the bow for personal use I’d put on a Fast Flight Plus ™ string.
The bow is certainly snappy when shot; it’s a very quick little bow. It’s really easy to get on target quickly, the sight window is just right. That’s important when bow fishing, you don’t want to struggle to get on target. The string has a lot of twang to it, but it quiets down quick. If I were going to use this as my personal bow I’d probably put on felt pads, which would likely fix it right up, but if it didn’t I’m certain that some string silencers would do the trick.
There is quite a bit of stacking, it’s very noticeable. That’s probably because I have a longer draw, but it’s uncomfortable for me to get the bow to anchor. I’m finding myself unconsciously bending my left elbow to reverse the stacking affect. I expect some stacking from bowfishing bows (because they are generally smaller bows), but it would keep me from using the bow for anything other than bowfishing.
I decided to try on a couple of different reels with the bow; one for the seasoned bowfisher and one for the not-so-seasoned bowfisher.
It took a little adjusting to get it set correctly on the bow (and by little I mean very, very little), but it’s certainly nothing an adjustable wrench couldn’t make short work of. The first thing I notice about this rig is the weight. The RPM equipment alone weighs nearly 2 pounds, which is more than the bow. However, it feels SOLID and well-made. This rig would be good for quick shots (most bowfishing shots are quick shots), but would wear on you quickly. If your left arm (or right arm if you’re a left handed shooter) isn’t used to holding the weight I could see stamina becoming a real issue with this setup.
The bow is well made, so it can take a little abuse – let’s be honest, if you’re bowfishing with friends on a small boat going after big Carp your bow is probably going to take a couple of hits. The reel is ready to use out of the box, which is nice. It comes pre-spooled with 125 feet of 200 pound Monkey Wire, an abrasion resistant string made from the same material that goes into creating bulletproof vests.
This rig would be PERFECT for quick shots on big fish in small boats.
The second setup I tried consisted of the Cajun Screw-On Bowfishing Reel and nothing else.
My first thought in looking at the Cajun was, “is this thing going to get in the way?” And the answer was a resounding, “Nope.” It’s much cheaper than the RPM rig, coming in at $24.99 plus shipping compared to more than a $100 for all three pieces of RPM gear.
The next thing I noticed about the Cajun was the weight – or the lack thereof. I weighed it and it came to roughly 6 ounces, which makes the whole bow weigh a little less than 2 pounds (which is less than the RPM rig by itself). However, there is a trade off, it looks and feels much cheaper than the RPM rig. This probably has something to do with the fact that it’s plastic instead of titanium.
Bottom line: if you’re a bowfisher with a standard draw length and you love (NEED) quality this is the bowfishing recurve for you. If you’re looking for a small, accurate, quality bow (one that you know isn’t going to blow-up on you) that gets on target quick and doesn’t look like every other run of the mill bow, then look no further than the Martin Independence Recurve.
If you’re after the big fish and you’re addicted the having the highest quality, best gear then you want the Martin Independence with the RPM rig.
If already you know you know you want the Martin Independence Recurve, but maybe you’re on the fence about bowfishing (or on a budget) then the Cajun is the rig for you.
Finally, 3Rivers Archery offers a couple of pre-setup bowfishing bows (all they need is the fish), which might be the best option for the budget conscious (or just plain curious) bowfisher. The Kingfisher™ Bowfishing Recurve Bow Kit and the 3Rivers Recurve Bowfishing Kit, both are good bows at a reasonable price.